Many hands (and feet)

Whilst many of the things that we searched out or came across for the book are the products of single, deliberate acts of construction, some have just evolved through the gradual influence of many people.

Stone cairns are one example that one sees in areas outside the usual daily life of most of us. We had hoped to encounter some good examples of cairns throughout the process of preparing the book, but (despite going into many wild places) we weren’t quite in the right places to get suitable subjects. Cairns are, however, very common throughout New Zealand, as signals between trampers or to mark significant points, such as the marble cairn that I saw late last year (post-Vernacular) at the top of a marble dome in Kahurangi National Park, with the splendid name of Hoary Head.

In a way, goat tracks perform a similar role to cairns, in that they indicate a preferred route more and more clearly as more people make a mark on it. However, in the case of the goat track, such routes generally indicate natural ‘desire lines’ (such as the shortcut shown below at Canterbury University) that demonstrate the difference between design and how people actually use a space (in contrast to how cairns help one to discern less perceptible routes in remote areas).